On Monday afternoon, the Outback Bowl features one of the best match-ups outside of the BCS as Georgia and Michigan State match up for the 3rd time since 1988 in a Florida bowl game. The two previous affairs were Georgia victories where SEC skill players and speed defeated the Big 10. These Spartans appear to be different than the other editions we’ve seen in postseason play with a strong defense and a potent passing game.
When Michigan State Has the Ball
Michigan State, led by quarterback Kirk Cousins, will try to generate offense via the passing game and will challenge the Georgia defense. The Spartan wide receivers will test the Fabulous Brandon/Branden Boys and Sanders Commings. The Georgia front seven anchored by Motel 6 Jenkins and Kwame Geathers will have to control the State running game without committing safeties to the line of scrimmage. If the Georgia defense can accomplish these two objectives, I expect that the Spartans will likely have a difficult time generating much offense without assistance from the special teams and turnovers. If not, the Spartans will be able to run the ball, set up play-action passing, and control the clock.
When Georgia Has the Ball
The Georgia offense will have its hands full with a Spartan defense that has been stellar for most of the season. As a result of the inconsistency of the Georgia running game, the offense will likely rely on Tampa natives Aaron Murray & Orson Charles along with Aron White, Tavarres King, Marlon Brown and the freshman “Three Amigos” (Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett & Chris Conley). Three years ago in Orlando, the Spartans had trouble when Georgia went to three and four-wide sets because the safeties couldn’t run with the Bulldog receivers in the slot. I look for Mike Bobo to attempt a similar strategy of attacking the middle of the field with the tight ends along with “White Lightning” Bennett. If Georgia can establish a running game and force the Spartan defense to respect play-action, I expect the Georgia offense to put up yards and points.
What Will Happen
I expect this game to go similar to other SEC-Big 10 New Year’s Day match-ups where the teams spend the first 7-10 minutes feeling each other out and then SEC speed on defense begins to take over the game. I’m certain Michigan State hasn’t seen the likes of the speed of the Georgia front 7 since the woodshed beating they took from Alabama in Orlando last New Year’s. If Georgia wins the turnover battle and neutralizes any special teams’ advantage of Michigan State, I like Georgia to win by double digits. If not, we’ll be in a fight for our lives and will be lucky to emerge from Tampa with a win over the Big 10 runners-up. Georgia hasn’t lost a bowl game in Florida since 1986 and has never lost a bowl game to a Big 10 team playing in the conference at the time of the game. I look for those streaks to continue Monday in Tampa.
Final Score: Georgia 28, Michigan State 17